Scientists have for the first time discovered the existence of opals on Mars. This incredible discovery comes as traces of the precious stone were found in a Martian meteorite, which fell to Earth in 1911 and was examined recently by researchers at the University of Glasgow.
The announcement has sent shock waves through the scientific and wider community as its presence could take us one step closer to proving if life existed on the red planet.
The opal was discovered in a 1.7g fraction of the Nakhla meteorite, which landed in Egypt some one hundred years ago and has been stored safely at the Natural History Museum in London ever since.
In a paper published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science, the research team describes using a powerful scanning microscope to find traces on the gem known here are ‘fire opal’, with its distinctive orange, yellow and red colour combination.
But the findings could represent something much more significant. Here on Earth, we know that opals are often formed in and around hot springs, where microbial life thrives, and as such can be preserved in deposits for millions of years.
Not only does this discovery confirm what NASA’s imaging and exploration of Mars had suggested, it will guide future missions to Mars. You never know, the next opal discovery on Mars could contain Martian microbes and provide proof that the planet once held life.
Asteroids, just like the Nakhla meteorite, could contain a wealth of minerals and metals. If so, space mining could be a reality in the not too distant future. In which case we hope we’re around to see it.
In the meantime here on Earth, at National Plant & Equipment we stock one of Australia’s largest ranges of equipment used in mining, including mining machinery and mining plant hire.